By Sola Ogundipe
THE Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria, NRHJN, has urged states of the Nigerian federation to pass the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act 2018 (VAPP Act 2018) into law without delay.
In a statement to mark this year’s International Women’s Day, IWD, the network observed that the VAPP Law had potential to be Nigeria’s antidote to the expanded Global Gag Rule, GGR, introduced in 2017 by US President Donald Trump.
The network noted that the historic signing into law of the Act by Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, rekindles hope for reproductive health and rights in the country even as it brings to four the number of states that have passed the VAPP Act since introduction in 2015.
“For Ogun State which has one of the largest burdens of domestic violence, incidences of reproductive health challenges such as teenage pregnancy, and child sexual abuse, the introduction of VAPP Law in the state is a welcome development,” the Network noted.
States which have domesticated the Act include Anambra, Oyo, Ogun and the FCT while Lagos and Ekiti have each passed laws against Violence Against Women.
The network urges the immediate domesticaton of the VAPP Act in all the other states which are yet to do so to give women and girls some sense of social justice and security from violent and abusive tendencies.
While lamenting the lukewarm attitude of most state governments to issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights of all persons especially women and girls, the network recognised that the extent of the effect of the non-passage of the VAPP Act to Nigerian women is worsened by consequences of the expanded GGR.
Speaking on consequences of the Global Gag Rule on sexual nd reproductive health of women, Country Director, Ipas, Nigeria, Hauwa Shekarau notes: “More than 22 million women every year—almost all in developing countries—will have an unsafe abortion because they lack access to safe, high-quality abortion care.”
Further, Hauwa who is Board member of the NRHJN stated: “It’s worse in Nigeria where the law criminalises abortion and women’s access to reproductive health services such as family planning contraception is dependent more on donors fund some of which have had their funds cut due to the GGR because of their involvement in providing abortion services in many countries around the world”.
According to Shekarau: “The Global Gag Rule will not only hurt abortion access or access to contraception but other forms of health care.
Impact of GGR
“In Nigeria today, women get reproductive health care at the same health centre they receive all other care. This expanded GGR could hinder and possibly end the work of healthcare providers who may be the only source for reproductive health care and a woman’s entry point for receiving a wide range of primary health services”.
Chairman of the NRHJN Board and the Association of Advanced Family Planning, Nigeria,, AAFPN, Dr Ejike Oji recognized the impact of the step taken by Ogun State in passing the VAPP Law, noting that if well enforced, the Law will promote the good health of the people of Ogun State especially women and girls who are often at the receiving end of domestic violence, harmful traditional practices and sexual abuses.
Also speaking, Executive Director of the Women Advocacy Research and Development Centre, WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akinyode- Afolabi said: “Arguably, the tenets of the VAPP Act, will indeed bring relief and effective remedies to millions of victims who have suffered in silence without recourse to justice.
Akinyode- Afolabi observes that even though several states have similar version of the Act passed into Law, 23 states need to to pass the VAPP Act for it to become a national law.
“Few states like Plateau, Imo, Ekiti, Lagos, Kogi and Anambra, Plateau passed the VAPP Act that adequately addresses forms of violence against women and girls, which are more often than not, overlooked and condoned by society.
“The VAPP Act will be of immense benefits to prohibiting female circumcision or genital mutilation, forceful ejection from home and harmful widowhood practices. It prohibits abandonment of spouse, children and other dependants without sustenance, battery, and harmful traditional practices.